Children’s canes

A fascinating sub-set of canes that a collector might wish to include in their own collection, or even specialize in, are the children’s canes.

Though not prohibitively expensive, true examples of this type tend to be relatively scarce and difficult to find.

Canes authentically designed and used by children were in popular use for only a very short span of time, relative to the over-all history of cane use.

Children’s cane, salesmen sample, ornamental baton or swagger stick?
There are a good number of sticks around of reduced size which cannot be identified, strictly speaking, as children’s canes. Various styles of smaller sticks that cannot be properly called children’s canes include swagger sticks, ornamental batons, salesmen’s samples, and canes designed for adults of extremely small stature. I have a small cane in my own collection whose accompanying provenance suggests ownership by a midget employed for many years as a barker for the Ringling Brothers-Barnum & Bailey circuses. Positive identification of a small cane as a true example of a child’s cane is elusive. Because no authoritative litmus test exists for the characteristics common to this type of collectible cane, designation as a child’s cane is highly subjective, and must be viewed in terms of probability or likelihood.

There are a number of identifying tips and rules of thumb to be found in the existing cane literature that can provide some aid in distinguishing children’s canes from other varieties of miniature canes. The accepted standard for length seems to be 22 to 24 inches. Salesmen’s samples may run a bit shorter and will show few signs of wear.

Children’s canes should also show little wear, as they were often taken out only for special occasions or in posing for photographs.

A cane belonging to a person of small stature may be a bit longer than the 24”, of a sturdier design meant to support weight, and showing evidence of everyday use. Since children’s canes (except for canes meant to be toys, such as carnival and novelty canes) were likely to be smaller versions imitating adult designs, swagger sticks and ornamental batons can sometimes be distinguished from them by visualizing them as full sized adult sticks. Would it still have the look of a walking stick if expanded to 36 inches? If not, it is likely not a child’s cane.

For antique cane and walking stick enthusiasts